Archive for January, 2019

Proverbs 16:24-28

In Proverbs 16:24-28 Solomon continues to teach us the importance of what we say. There is wonderful power in our words to bring blessing and pleasantness to others. In ancient Biblical culture, nothing was as sweet as honey from the honeycomb, and pleasant words can be just as sweet and wonderful. But we have to be careful to speak graciously. “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Encouraging and pleasant words bring enjoyment to the whole person (the soul) and health to the body. We underestimate the power of our words.

Here is one of the greatest truths in scripture – we don’t really know what God’s plans are. It is not wise to make decisions based on our own gut feelings alone.  We need to leverage God’s truth, the counsel of many, and His Spirit to guide us in decisions. Some people walk a path of life that they know is wrong, and many proverbs speak to that person. Others walk a path of life that seems right to them, and they are mistaken. It isn’t enough to feel good about our path, or to follow our heart on life’s way. God’s revelation and word is always truer and safer than what seems right to a man. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” The problem is what happens when we are wrong. Taking the wrong way – even if it seems right to a man – isn’t an innocent mistake. This is because the wrong path ends in death. The end of the wrong path isn’t temporary trouble or inconvenience; its end is the way of death.

The Bible recognizes the principle of personal property and that the reward of work properly belongs to the one doing it.  But we also must keep in mind that our ownership of stuff is really stewardship.  It all belongs to God.  We’re given the opportunity to care for and use many things that result from our hard work, but we need to do so with an open hand. “A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.” There are many drivers that cause us to work, not the least of which is what scripture tells us is required.  But a hungry belly certainly can drive one to put his shoulder to the plow to fulfill that basic need.

The sense is that for the ungodly man, the evil he casually finds isn’t enough to satisfy his desire. So he digs up more evil, finding the effort to pursue evil fulfilling in his twisted ways. “A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.” When an ungodly man digs up evil, he can’t keep it to himself. He has to spread it to others, so he casts it from his lips as if it were a burning fire.”A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” This is one way that the perverse man sows strife – by whispering gossipy words. The strife they sow is so powerful it can separate best friends. Often, such people show they are evil because they count it a victory and an accomplishment to sow such strife and to separate even the best of friends.

Proverbs 16:20-23

In Proverbs 16:20-23 Solomon reminds us that obedience is a secret to goodness and blessing.  How we live matters. Obedience to God – to heed His Word and live it wisely – will always bring goodness. This thought also suggests that there are unwise or foolish ways to heed the word, perhaps as the religious leaders in Jesus’ day did it, focused on the letter of the law rather than God’s intent. “Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” The goodness the obedient will find also comes because they have a true and confident trust in God. They can happily and calmly rest in the good God who loves and cares for them.

Those who are wise in heart will demonstrate wisdom through their life. Others will see it and call them prudent or wise. This is another reminder that true wisdom is demonstrated by how we live; it isn’t only having good or true thoughts in one’s mind but rather the actions we take day by day and moment by moment. “The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” The phrase sweetness of speech doesn’t have to do with good tasting food or pleasant kisses. Like many proverbs, it refers to wise and well-spoken words, perhaps with a touch of eloquence. Such speaking increases learning, both in the speaker and those who hear him.

Common sense seems to be a lost thing for many today.  But Solomon points out just how important it truly can be. It guides us to walk where we should be going. It truly is a fountain that continues to provide good water that sustains life. “Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.” When we fail to seek and follow God’s wisdom, we are going to miss the mark. Wisdom brings life, but it is usually foolish to try to correct a fool. As soon as a fool decides to receive correction, they have started not being a fool and leaving their folly to seek wisdom.

Solomon again returns to talk about the importance of what we say. Our wisdom is shown by what we speak, and by the control we have over the words that come from our mouth. Godliness and wisdom are evident when they teach the mouth what to say and not say. “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.” When we speak with wisdom and are continually learning how to communicate more effectively, we are more persuasive to those we touch. Wisdom is shown by a heart and mind that are continually learning. When learning is added to the words one says, then a person truly has wisdom and is growing in it.

Proverbs 16:16-19

In Proverbs 16:16-19 Solomon begins by telling us that wisdom is one of the most valuable things we can ever receive. The money of this world has its use, but it is better to have wisdom than gold. Wisdom is much more helpful and useful in this life, and it is far more profitable for the life to come. “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” One should make the main pursuit of their life to gain wisdom and understanding in the fear of the Lord. This has value far more than gold or silver, but it also often leads to material prosperity as it did for Solomon. Wisdom and wealth are not incompatible; but this comparison is between wealth without wisdom and wisdom without wealth.

He guides us to be careful to turn away from sin.  God cares how we live, and what we do when presented with a temptation. The upright knows that the path of their life – their highway – should move away from evil, not towards it or with it. We need to flee from all evil. “The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; whoever guards his way preserves his life.” This is a matter of eternal life and death. The one who walks in the right way will find his life preserved. He will stay away from evil that may cost him his life and more importantly his soul.

Solomon again addresses pride, which turned out to be one of the things that brought himself down.  He realized the power of pride toward evil, yet it still caught him. Scripture is clear that God opposes the proud. With God so set against the proud, no wonder that pride goes before destruction. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” One of the many ways that pride is evident is in a haughty spirit – an attitude that communicates superiority over other people. Those who think themselves higher than others are set for destruction and ready to fall under the judgment of God.

Because pride is an abomination to God and leads to destruction, Solomon tells us that it isn’t so bad to live among the lowly and to have a humble spirit. The opposite of pride is humility which is another way to describe a lowly spirit.  It’s not a feeling of being worthless or becoming a doormat for others to trample, but rather a healthy understanding of who God is and where we fit in relationship to Him.  “It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.” A humble life among the lowly is better than having reward among the proud. This is because proud people are not pleasant company, and because it is never good to join those whom God is set to destroy.

Proverbs 16:12-15

In Proverbs 16:12-15 Solomon talks about the importance of how leaders lead.  Solomon admitted that it was possible for kings to commit wickedness. Some think that because someone is a king or leader all they do is justified. Sadly, Solomon became a king who committed wickedness and his house came crumbling down. “It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness.” The righteous life of a king can bring God’s blessing upon his life and for those whom he leads. Because of this great potential and influence, it is an even greater sin for kings and leaders to commit wickedness.

Truth is the best thing a leader can hear.  They need to be surrounded by truth tellers who will give them the real truth. In their positions of authority, it is important for kings and leaders to hear from those who speak honestly and wisely. Therefore, they find delight in righteous lips as it gives them the information and perspective they need to lead well. “Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right.” It is always important for kings and leaders to hear the truth from others and not mere flattery. The words of those who flatter have no value to leadership. ven when a man speaks what may be difficult for the king or leader to hear, the one who speaks what is right will gain the love and respect of those who are in authority.

Solomon reminds us that when a king or man of authority is angry, his reaction can bring death or a death-like fear to others. This is true of earthly kings and leaders; but it is much truer of the King of Kings. To be the target of His wrath is to receive a verdict of death without an Intercessor – namely Jesus. “A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it.” Wisdom can help us have the right reaction even in the difficult moments when a king or leader is angry and shows their wrath. The wise man will especially know how to appease the wrath of the King of Kings – not by their own works and merits, but by receiving what God has provided through Jesus.

The approval and favor of an earthly king or leader could mean success or failure for anyone under their rule. To have his approving countenance meant you were safe in their favor and had life. “In the light of a king’s face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.” There is benefit to having a leader who is pleased. The welcome and approval of a king is like life-giving rain, especially the spring rain which ensured a good harvest. This proverb is especially true regarding the King of Kings. The favor of His countenance is a blessing and to receive it gives light and eternal life.

Proverbs 16:9-11

In Proverbs 16:9-11 Solomon begins by talking about planning.  There are many reasons planning makes sense, but we need to do it in alignment with God’s plans for us, not as a declarative way we want the future to be.  God alone knows the future, but it is important for us to be intentional about how we use our time, talent and treasure which is what planning is all about. So planning is not a bad thing. We, as the God in whose image we are made, need to think about and plan our way. Many people would do well to more carefully plan their way. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

The reality is that God alone determines the outcome. We plan as we can and should, but we should never think that our ability to plan makes us lord over our lives. It is the LORD who directs our steps.  He alone is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Every plan we make should be held in humility before God and surrender to His ultimate will. We can plan our path in the future to the last detail, but we cannot implement and complete the plan unless it coincides with God’s plan for us. There will likely be some contrast between what we actually plan and what actually happens—God determines that. The change may be a little or a lot, but we must not forget that God is able to do abundantly more than we ask or think.  Our plans may actually be far less than what God has in mind.

Solomon reminds us that leaders should have something valuable to share – oracle here is the sense of wise guidance, the wisdom that should be on the lips of the king. That might change everything that happens in our governments around the world – if they would only speed when they have something wise to share.  It would be a lot quieter in the chambers of most legislatures.  “An oracle is on the lips of a king; his mouth does not sin in judgment.” The same lips that must speak wisdom and discernment should not also be used to go beyond God’s wisely appointed boundaries of judgment. Those who are in positions of authority are not empowered to ignore God’s laws but rather to uphold and follow them.

God does care about what happens in the marketplace too.  Fair business is so pleasing to God that it can be said that honest measures belong to Him. All of God’s measurements and assessments are fair and true. The proper measure does not come from the king, nor does it belong to the king. The right measure comes from God and belongs to Him. And we are required to act in the same way to be in obedience to Him. “A just balance and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are his work.” Fair and honest business is God’s business, His work. God should not be absent in the marketplace but in the center of all that happens.

Proverbs 16:5-8

In Proverbs 16:5-8 Solomon reminds us that God isn’t fond of pride or arrogance.  In fact, God resists the proud and regards them as an abomination. The proud man or woman imitates Satan in his proud rebellion against God.  It isn’t something that we should expect to get away with. “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” One proud man or woman cannot succeed against God, but neither can many proud men or women. God simply won’t tolerate pride, which is really pushing God off His rightful place as King of Kings and putting self on the throne that only belongs to Him. Even if they join forces against God as they did at Babel will not go unpunished, as God demonstrated at Babel.

Sin carries a price.  It can never just be overlooked or ignored by a righteous God.  But God in His mercy and truth has provided atonement for sin. God’s mercy prompted the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, and His truth made it necessary to make atonement in a way that honored the righteousness of God. This is the only way to cover our sin.  We can’t earn our way out of it on our own. “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.” The great principle of the fear of the LORD is not only the beginning of wisdom, it is also the foundation of a God-honoring life. To live in the fear of the LORD is to depart from evil.

Solomon reminds us that it is possible for a man or woman to live a life that pleases God. This isn’t the idea that we can be perfectly pleasing to God before our salvation is completed in resurrection and glorification. Instead the idea is that in general, a man or woman can honor and please the LORD with their life. We really can live a life that pleases God if we walk in obedience to His Word and His leading. “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” One of God’s blessings on the man or woman who pleases Him is to give them peace with others, even extending to their enemies. God smiles on us when we walk with Him.

Solomon also makes it clear that having stuff is not the measure of a good life. Sometimes those who are righteous in this world have little of the material comforts of this world. “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” Someone who has great wealth (revenues) but little righteousness is worse off than the righteous man or woman who has little materially in this world. Vast revenues without justice can never give a peaceful conscience, freedom from guilt and sin, the love and joy of God, and a hundred other things the righteous enjoy. It isn’t that the only two options in life are to have either little with righteousness or great revenues without justice. It’s that when those two options are compared, the first is clearly better.

Proverbs 16:1-4

In Proverbs 16:1-4 Solomon reminds us that people are planners. God plans and prepares, and because man is made in the image of God it is in the nature of man to make plans. Many of us attempt to plan, but the reality is that God alone can truly plan and have the plan become the exact outcome since He knows all and sees all.  The more we can align with His plans, the more likely the outcome will be what we plan. “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” God alone has the answer to our desire to plan.  He knows all, sees all, and has the answer for our every question and need.  So planning should drive us toward God where we can seek His guidance and direction.

As humans, we see things from our own point of view. By instinct, men and women justify themselves and see their own ways as pure. Some of the most criminal and violent people have thought of themselves as pure in their own eyes. We deceive ourselves when we fail to compare our ways with God’s ways, which are the only true measure of what pure truly is. “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.” The measuring stick is not how we are compared to what we think we should be, but how we are in relationship to God’s standards.  And the reality is we will fall short, every time, all the time.  We can’t really evaluate ourselves but need to seek God’s Spirit and His Word to provide the tools for evaluation.

Solomon gives us the secret to getting things done. It isn’t about what we do or how we do it or how hard we work.  It’s about our commitment. Every man and woman should commit their works to the LORD. They should depend on God in their works and they should do those works as unto the LORD. “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” We need to give our work to the Lord and leave it there.  We can’t give and then take it back. Usually we think of committing our thoughts or plans to the Lord, then committing our works to Him. Here Solomon reversed that order, and told us to first commit our works, then trust that our thoughts and plans will be established.

There is a reason for all things.  God has made no mistakes in His creation.  There are no loose ends in God’s design.  Everything has a place, even things that seem to be a misfit in our eyes.  But God made things on purpose, for a purpose.  That is true of every human on the planet too.  God has made each unique with not only our physical being, but also the purpose of our life. “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” It can be difficult to understand how some of the wicked or evil can possibly fit into a plan of God’s, but Solomon is clear that they do, and God is indeed author of all of Creation, not just the things we think are as expected.

Proverbs 15:29-33

In Proverbs 15:29-33 Solomon describes the difference between wickedness and the righteous. Men and women who are wicked do their best to separate themselves from God, and in this sense, God is far from them. There is another sense, especially in light of the work of Jesus, in which God draws near to the wicked to offer redemption and wisdom.  After all Jesus is their only hope for redemption. “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous”. But God draws near to those who draw near to Him. The prayer of the righteous man or woman is effective before God.

The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones”. The eyes are something like a lamp to the whole body. When the eyes are full of light it brings happiness and contentment to the heart and the whole body. Good news cheers our spirit and brings health to the body. It refreshes us.The ultimate fulfillment of this refreshment is the gospel – the good news, the good report of what God did in Jesus Christ to demonstrate His love for us and to rescue us.  There is no news that is better, or will last longer, than God’s plan of saving the world through Jesus.  It is our only hope.

God is interested in keeping us on the straight and narrow path. Not every ear will listen to correction, but there is blessing to those that do. Also, life has its own rebukes for those who have the ear to hear. In general, life rewards wisdom and rebukes folly. One of the more important aspects of wisdom is the simple ability to hear and learn. If we can’t learn, we can never abide among the wise. “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise”. But when we choose not to listen, there is a price to pay. “Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence”. To hear and heed rebuke is to get and grow in wisdom (understanding). Receiving rebuke is rarely pleasant, but it is worth it for the wisdom it brings.

At the end of the day, God is interested in growing us into righteousness.  A common and foundational theme in Proverbs is repeated here. Wisdom begins in the fear of the LORD, and true wisdom flows from it. “The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor”. An essential aspect of the fear of the LORD is humility. To properly fear God is to see and recognize Him as He really is. When we see and recognize who we really are, humility comes. The deeper our humility becomes, the higher God’s honor will be.  We have to fear God and let Him build humility into us if we truly want to experience all that He has for us.

Proverbs 15:25-28

In Proverbs 15:25-28 Solomon reminds us of the cost of pride is very large. Those who choose pride set themselves against God and God will set Himself against them. They and their house will be targets of God’s destruction. “The Lord tears down the house of the proud but maintains the widow’s boundaries”. On the other hand, the widow is the picture and representative of a humble, needy person who looks to and depends on God. She represents the opposite of the proud, and God takes special care of those who humbly depend on Him. As Solomon has said previously, God opposes the proud.

How we think matters to God. Wickedness doesn’t begin in the actions; it begins in the heart and thoughts. There is certainly a sense in which our actions are more important than our thoughts, but our actions begin in our thoughts, so what we think is also important to God. “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure”. Solomon knew that a person’s thoughts would be ultimately revealed by their words. God hears the words of the pure and is pleased, contrasting with the thoughts of the wicked. What we think, and ultimately say, truly matters.

Honesty is a trait that God expects us to live by. Many of those who are greedy for gain justify it with the excuse that they do it for their family. This is not wise, because being greedy for gain will ultimately bring trouble to one’s house. “Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live”. On the other side of the coin, the one who hates bribes is set as a contrast to the one who is greedy for gain. The greedy man or woman will do anything for more money and loves bribes if they can bring more money. God’s blessing is on men and women of integrity who hate bribes and other dishonest ways of doing business.

How we reply to questions and concerns is important.  We need to pause to be sure we answer wisely. The idea behind the phrase “how to answer” is simply of what one says. God’s righteous ones – men and women of wisdom – think beforehand what they should and will say. Their words are not based only on impulse and reaction. “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things”. On the other hand, there is little self control when it comes to the mouth of the wicked. Evil words and ideas simply pour out of their mouth, with no wise thought beforehand.  We need to think before we speak.

Proverbs 15:21-24

In Proverbs 15:21-24 Solomon gives us a bit more on those who lack wisdom and live a life of folly. For the fool, their foolishness (folly) is something they take pleasure in. They only hate their folly when they have to pay the bitter consequences of it. Otherwise, it is joy to them.  They have no real sense of what life could be if they lived it based on wisdom. “Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead”. With wisdom, our life is ordered and upright. The wise person finds joy in what is good and upright. It delivers a life based on God’s principles that yield a good return.

Solomon was clear that success in life is not something that happens alone.  We need to be surrounded by wise people. The difference between success and failure can often be found in those who plan with or without counsel. Wisdom understands that other people also have wisdom. I have learned the hard way that one of the best sources of counsel is my spouse.  We need to begin there with every decision. “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed”. Normally there is more insight from many people than from one. Getting many eyes to see and many minds to think about plans can often see those plans established and successful.

When we can help someone else with our wisdom and experience, it is exciting. Right and wise words have the potential and power to bring great joy to one’s self and to others. And they can truly make a difference in the outcome of another person, company or organization. “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is”! Saying the right thing at the right time is a real blessing to all. The value in a good word is often not only found in its content, but also in it’s timing. The right word at the right time (in due season) is a powerful force for good. We can all impact those in our patch by sharing what we have learned and know with others.

Time keeps moving, and with it, so does the impact of life. One of the great benefits for a life of wisdom is that, generally, life gets better as the years go on. The progress of their life winds upward and not down; they move from glory to glory. This doesn’t mean a perfect life, or one free from pain or suffering, but a blessed life where God is in complete control. “The path of life leads upward for the prudent, that he may turn away from Sheol beneath”. The progress of a wise life isn’t just in what it heads toward (upward), but also in what it moves away from. Heaven becomes closer and hell becomes further distant behind.

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